As I said the other day, to understand more about me, you should also understand something about journaling.
Journaling is essentially nothing more than writing, and when people write things down they tend to remember them better. But there is more to this story, and I thought I’d share in an effort to educate you from my own experience.
There are many purposes to journaling, not the least of which is learning final causes of one’s thoughts and actions. Many times in the past, I have been exceedingly hurt or angry about something, and putting the experience down on paper is a good way to look at it, think about it more deeply (because writing requires more thinking than just, well, thinking), and come to some better conclusion.
However, we have all been hurt by others. Sometimes it’s a coworker, sometimes a friend, or a parent. Those are the times when we really want — and need — to journal. During those times when the choices of reactions are to either put my fist through a wall or write, it seems like writing is always th better answer. But I think we know what happens over the years when those situations begin to pile up.
To explain, here’s a quote from Undiluted, a book by Benjamin Corey:
I had a book of childhood hurts, marital hurts, career hurts, parenting hurts… I had a big stack of hurts, and they were suffocating me. The equally difficult yet freeing realization was that the stack of books that began to encroach on my life— the ones chronicling all the hurt I had experienced— had actually been written by me. Not only did I write them; I was holding on to each one for safekeeping. To give myself a false sense of control over situations where I didn’t always have control, I chronicled my unforgiven hurts and piled them on top of each other until they got so high that the stack was at risk of toppling over. I realized that if I wanted to experience life as it could be, something needed to change— the old way of living wasn’t working for me anymore.
I think we all know what he’s talking about here. As I was journaling this morning, these thoughts laid heavily on me. I am owed. Big. There are people who have hurt me, who have occupied countless pages of these journals, either directly or indirectly. I own big debts, on which I will never collect.
These debts are a prison. I don’t think about them constantly, but in some way they do follow me every day. I want these people who have hurt me to pay for what they have done.
There are two ways to be free of these debts. One is to collect. And that is most likely impossible. Am I to go to someone, years after their offense, and explain to them how something of which they have most likely never been aware has caused me great pain, and expect them to understand, feel adequate remorse, incur pain that I deem equal to my own, and apologize in a manner appropriate for the harm they caused? I doubt it would be possible even for the most empathetic of debtors.
But there is another way to be free. And that is to let it go. Forgive these crippling, terrible, unpayable debts.
In Undiluted, Corey quotes a story that Jesus once told.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy- seven times
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:21- 35).
This is a radically different way of looking at things, one that puts me last, and others first. But it lets me live the life I’m supposed to live, free. Free from the normal, tit for tat lifestyle that most of us expect to live here. Free from the debts that I probably can’t make other people understand anyway. Free.
So there you have another reason to write. Write down all that hurt. Get it out on paper. Look at it until you understand why you’ve been hurt.
Then, write about just how much it would hurt you to forgive that person their debt. Then do it. You WILL become a better person. Nobody else will know but you.
And that’s all that matters.